Interview with Jim Canary



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Check out the scroll's website
Check out the scroll's website and find out where On the Road by Jack Kerouac is visiting next.

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Visit the Lilly Library at Indiana University
Visit the Lilly Library at Indiana University online, or visit the next time you go to Bloomington, IN.

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Read more about what Jim Canary does
Read an article about Jim Canary and the conservation work at the Lilly Library.

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Visit the Beat Museum
Check out Kerouac on the webpage of the Beat Museum or visit them in Alhambra, California.

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Unrolling the scroll...
Watch as Jim Canary unrolls the On the Road scroll at the IMA.

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Read more about the traveling scroll.
Read an article on about the On the Road scroll.

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See another IMA video on Conservation
Watch this video about the IMA's conservation efforts on a Renaissance painting by Sebastiano Mainardi.

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What causes Static Electricity?
Learn more about the magic of static on Wikipedia.

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Watch the interview with Jim Irsay
Watch the interview with Jim Irsay, owner of Kerouac's On the Road scroll.

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Jim Canary, conservator of the On the Road scroll, sits down with IMA staff to discuss this masterpiece, its conservation, transporting it all over the world, the impact of Jack Kerouac and reading The Beats, and being friends with Jim Irsay.

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00:00:10 Well, it was soon after Jim bought it, he had contacted Christie's and asked them how do I take care of this, what sort of precautions do I

00:00:20 need in handling it and exhibiting it and so Christie's said, "Just contact the Lilly Library," which is a rare book library

00:00:30 just south of here, about an hour. So he called, or his representative called, and said, "Would you like to come up and have a look at the recently purchased scroll?"

00:00:40 And when my curator asked me, I just about flipped, because I am a huge Kerouac fan. I read it in high school. I hitchhiked cross-country and then to have the opportunity

00:00:51 to get involved, in someway, with helping to preserve it and be around it so much was a treat.

00:01:10 To read the whole thing as I was going through...I went and just rolled it very carefully and looked at every inch of it, both sides.

00:01:21 The edges are little rough and so I noted every little tear and defect and things that we might want to consider repairing at some point in the future, and just so I could to give Jim,

00:01:30 kind of, a benchmark of where the scroll was now, and what it might need in the future to keep it in good shape. And so, at the same time,

00:01:41 you start reading it and then you start realizing how different it is from the published text and it was so exciting to find passages, whole passages, that were

00:01:51 very, very different from the published version.

00:02:01 Since Jim was very keen on exhibiting it and having it travel, we offered to help him with all the arrangements, so it's been amazing working with so many

00:02:11 different museums and libraries around the world and learning about the way they do things. I have learnt an awful lot about installation

00:02:21 and prep departments and get to see that in all the different venues. So, we have been really lucky and had really good people working with us all the way.

00:02:40 Funny thing has been the way the, it has been kind of a joke, the way the case has been working for us. First time, when we put it down the scroll,

00:02:50 we put the plexi on the top and the scroll just levitated up to the top with the static draw, you know, it was just kind of eerie, it just comes floating up to the surface.

00:03:00 So, we had to come up with a way of securing it down to the base, and it seems that whenever we build it, things just come out a little different.

00:03:12 When we built it in New York, we had marked every piece, we had it fitting together perfectly and then when it went to Texas and when we set it up in Texas,

00:03:22 a piece of plexi hung over six inches and it was like, how can this happen? You know, every piece was marked, we put them in the exact same order that we had before

00:03:31 and had six inches over. We've had this happen before and it's been four inches under and we've had to then cut another piece of plexi and it's just, I don't know, kind of this joke about

00:03:43 somehow Jack is messing with the case and just playing with it, you know, as we were treating it so seriously, this thing, and that little element of surprise

00:03:53 that comes up every time. That's been kind of fun.

00:04:07 I think there is that appeal, just getting out there and getting on the road and being free and just taking off. That's what it was for me, the first time I read it

00:04:17 and Kerouac said he took off with $50 in his pocket and that's what I did; I had $50 and headed to California with no idea of where I was going,

00:04:26 no maps, no anything, just heading west on I-80.